What are Some of the Common Challenges of Breast Feeding?

Last week we looked at how easy it is breastfeed and noted that there are some challenges that women face when breast feeding. Today we look at some of the physical challenges that may arise.

When making the decision to breastfeed, it’s a good idea to review the possible challenges with your partner so that should these challenges arrive your well informed partner can provide you with the support you need.

Probably one of the most common complaints must be dry and cracked nipples. You can prevent this rather unpleasant experience by avoiding soap, perfumed cream and lotions containing alcohol. You can make use of special nipple creams which sooth and moisturize or lanolin, just remember to wash it off before feeding again.

Another common grievance faced by breast feeding moms involves sore nipples and is to be expected, especially in the first few weeks of breastfeeding. It’s important to work on your technique to make sure your baby latches on correctly. You can also use one finger to break the suction of the babies mouth after feeds. Doing this will help in preventing soreness. If you are doing this and still finding that your nipples are painful it could also be that perhaps your milk ducts are not being emptied properly. Make sure to swop equally between breasts to attempt to empty them. The result of not doing so could be engorged and painfully swollen.  Placing a bag of peas against sore nipples can provide temporary relief as does ‘air drying’ your nipples between feeds. You will also find that your baby will have a tendency to suck harder at the beginning of feeds so try starting with the breast that is experiencing less pain.

What about leaking breasts? Just as common as the initial discomfort, I found this to be a regular complaint. There are a few things you can do to stop this. Press the heel of your hand gently but firmly against the offending breast. Try wearing breast pads to prevent the breast milk reaching your clothing but remember to only use cotton pads and change them often in order to avoid an infection. Expressing can also assist but you should only express enough to feel comfortable so that you do not overstimulate the supply.

More serious complaints include breast engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis (breast infection). Slight engorgement or fullness of the breast is to be expected. It’s healthy and natural and they should stay soft and malleable though full. Sometimes though the blood vessels become clogged. The fluid becomes traps in the breast and makes them hard, painful and swollen. Exposure in a hot shower can unblock the pores or you could also gauge relief by using a breast pump or massaging by hand. If you have a single sore spot on your breasts that appear red and hot, this may indicate a blocked duct and can be relieved by a warm compress and a massage over the area to release the blockage. Occasionally usually after a feeding, if a mom has a cracked nipple an infection can occur. If you find that your breasts are in pain and you have a fever, feel fatigued or are exhibiting flu-like symptoms it’s time to call the doctor. In these cases, antibiotics are prescribed to clear the infection and you will be able to continue breastfeeding despite the infection or antibiotic use. To relieve the pain, apply moist heat to the painful area a few times a day for 15 to 20 minutes.

A less common complaint involves inversion of the nipples. An inverted nipple doesn’t point forward when the areola is pinched. Never fear, a lactation consultant can assist you and many women with inverted nipples successfully breastfeed their children.

Subscribe to our blog or stay tuned via our Facebook page. Next week we explore how to prepare to breastfeed before birth.

Written by: Bianca Steyn

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